The Science behind Spare Tires and Thunder Thighs

Why is it that some people store their body-fat around their middle while others store it on their thunder thighs and their bodacious bottoms?.

bodyshape july07 pear The Science behind Spare Tires and Thunder Thighs.

If you struggle with your weight, your doctor has probably told you that your genetics predisposes you to be either an “apple” or a “pear” when it comes to your body-fat distribution.

So what kind of fruit are you?.

applepear21 The Science behind Spare Tires and Thunder Thighs.

Generally speaking, women typically collect fat in their hips and buttocks, giving their figures a “pear” shape. In medical terms, this fat distribution pattern is referred to as gynecoid.

Men, on the other hand, usually collect fat around the belly, giving them more of an “apple” shape. In medical terms, this fat distribution pattern is referred to as android.

Keep in mind, this is not an absolute. Some men are pear-shaped and some women are apple-shaped.

Health Effects of Fat Distribution Patterns

To put it bluntly, apple-shaped people are more likely to develop many of the health problems associated with obesity. They are at increased health risk because of their fat distribution.

  • While obesity of any kind is a health risk, it is better to be a pear than an apple.

For a more thorough discussion of the health implications of being an apple or a pear, check out what the Mayo Clinic has to say about it.

So What Makes Someone an Apple or a Pear?

On all of your fat cells, you have hormone receptors which are designed to accept specific types of hormones.

When it comes to weight loss and your fat cells, we are concerned with the adrenoreceptors designed to accept adrenaline and noradrenaline(To complicate things further, some scientists call adrenaline – epinephrine and nor adrenaline – nor epinephrine).

Think of the receptor as a lock and the hormone as a key.

 The Science behind Spare Tires and Thunder Thighs

Of all of the different types of hormone receptors, fat cells have only two – Alpha 2 (A2) and Beta 1 (B1).

  • B1s are the good guys.
  • B1 receptors activate lipase (the enzyme that breaks down fat). Lipase causes your fat cells to break down the stored fat into fatty acids and glycerol to be used as energy throughout your body.
  • This fat breakdown procedure is initiated when B1s hormone receptors link up with the key hormone noradrenaline.

(Adrenaline could also set off this procedure, but your body-fat lacks the major arteries and veins that adrenaline needs to travel in – sorry)

On the other hand, your A2 receptors are the bad guys. Their job is not only to keep fat inside the cell, but to encourage the formation of new fat into the cell. As a special bonus, they decrease the body’s generation of noradrenaline.

Even worse, when you go on a low calorie diet, you are increasing the number of A2 receptors.

Doesn’t sound good does it?

But this still doesn’t answer why my love handles / butt / thunder thighs are fatter than the rest of my body. Hopefully, this will make things clearer….

Why Apples are Apples and Pears are Pears

  • Problem area fat cells have very few B1 receptors. This means they do not release much stored fat – diet or not.
  • Problem area fat cells have lots of A2 receptors. And that number grows when you diet.

This means that a typical yo-yo dieter is actually making their problem areas much more stubborn every time he/she jumps on and off the diet bandwagon.

So what do I do NOW?

  • STOP DIETING – Microwaved diet entrees are not the answer.
  • START EATING HEALTHY… Fruits…Vegetables…Lean Protein…Nuts & Seeds…Fish

In the meantime, be aware that lots and lots of lab coat wearing scientists are working night and day to discover the perfect A2 receptor antagonist – that perfect pill that will block the Noradrenaline key from fitting into the A2 receptor lock. 

And when they do, you can go back to eating cheesecake.

Doug Robb is a personal trainer, a fitness blogger and author, a competitive athlete, a social media nerd and a student of nutrition and exercise science. Since 2008, Doug has brought his real-world experience online via his health & fitness blog, Health Habits.

8 Comments

  1. jessica

    June 8, 2010 at 2:28 pm

    hello. i loved this article. it definetly helped me understand my body alot better. i have been recently trying to gain weight hoping for it to fall on my butt and thigh area (pear shape) i didnt understand why i was gaining weight everywhere BUT there. it was really frustrating but now i realize its because im apple shaped. after reading this article’s section about the hormones however, i was wondering if there are any hormones available that i could take to possible change my body’s fat distribution? thanks.

  2. lalala (:

    July 30, 2009 at 12:55 am

    omg -__-;; i got both …
    when i gained weight, it went all over my body, the butt, stomach.

  3. Ashleigh

    May 31, 2009 at 4:49 am

    Just came across this. I have an apple body which I HATE. It was okay when I was thin although I did not like my broad shoulders but now I am overweight and I look just like that apple woman in the photo on your blog… only bigger. I wish I had a pear shaped body because I hate the way the fat is in my upper body. I feel soooo unattractive as a result. I don’t know if it’s hard or easy to lose upper body weight gain, but I’m trying to start exercising and eating better. I’m very depressed at my apple body. And clothes just do not look good on apple bodies either. Ugh!

  4. semkem

    May 27, 2009 at 9:18 am

    haahhahha.ace…
    wohoo im a pear shaped i will give the gud news to my mum and sister who are apple shaped.

  5. Pingback: Why Personal Trainers Get Results « Healthhabits

  6. everythingiseventual

    June 26, 2008 at 9:57 am

    oh my gosh, thats amazing! its so interesting to learn the science behind this. i am an apple shaped female, just like everyone else in my family. i hate it! its sooo annoying.

  7. Heidi

    June 16, 2008 at 1:32 am

    What a great post! I have always wondered why some people have bellies and some have booties and now I know. I read it twice so hopefully it will sink in. I really enjoyed this!

  8. Teresa

    June 15, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    Powerful insights. Worth stopping by to absorb your post content. Thanks.
    The story is millions Spare Tire & Thunder Thighs Owners seem to stop caring. Why? They feel comfortable with their own discomfort…
    They look around and what they see is – millions look just like them.

    The most top science is there to help them, gyms, you name it…But…Their shopping cards keep loading with the same old good known stuff.

    It’s harder to make a change…than to stay in ‘the known’ , regardless how life-threatening the ‘known’ is.
    SAD. SAD. SAD.
    We folks in good shape care for them more than they care for themselves… SAD. They need to start ownership of a decision to change – that’s a kick off towards health.